What a wonderful surprise! “Is He Dead?” the new Broadway comedy by the master American novelist and satirist Mark Twain is destined to be the sleeper of the season. Directed by Michael Blakemore with an over the top comic style the evening in the hands of a troupe of seasoned New York actors headed by the incomparable Norbert Leo Butz is a hysterically fast paced confection that pokes fun at the art world.
The splendid production of “Cymbeline” directed by Mark Lamos, although uneven, boasts superb design elements that emphasize the magical qualities of Shakespeare’s sweeping romantic comedy. And at the center of the complex tale is an exciting performance by Martha Plimpton as Princess Imogen, the playwright’s most mature female heroine, who will undergo many trials before the neat conclusion.
Gossip columns. How the news is overcome by “movers and shakers” — Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears! Often as in the case of The New York Post’s Page Six, rife with trumped up reports engineered to trigger a Jerry Falwellish sense of moral outrage. It’s this “state-of-the art” in journalism that Karen Finley turns into her very own ruthless mockery.
Secret Order, a compelling drama by Bob Clyman at 59E59 Theaters is a thriller about the medical industry. The playwright tackles some provocative territory with style and wit while crafting a timely tale about cancer research.
Aaron Sorkin’s new play TheFarnsworth Invention is an engrossing tale chronicling the invention of television and the subsequent clash over patent rights. As drama the evening lacks tension, but Des McAnuff’s beautifully acted stylish production moves along with such razor sharp precision that the unfolding events make for a compelling, richly satisfying evening nonetheless.
As an ode to the theater the new musical The Glorious Ones, stylishly directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele, is a sublimely funny treat served with winning wit by a marvelous ensemble of seven headed by the divine Marc Kudisch. These are singers who act having a joyous blast breathing life into the bawdy little one act.
Frankenstein’d to death? Is he out to kill us or is he just kidding us? In any case he must be a powerful dude, because if your name is Frankenstein, the show must go on. Proof? “The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein” and its gothic sibling, “Frankenstein”, a new musical at 37 Arts Theatre are keeping the fires of show biz burning, at least during the strike.
There is a sense of deja vu in Adam Bock’s suspenseful one act The Receptionist premiering under Joe Mantello’s skillful direction for the Manhattan Theater Club. Last year Mr. Bock gave us the critically praised The Thugs, which debuted downtown and like that previous effort his new play takes place in an office where small talk seems the order of the day, but beneath the glib chatter some sinister plot is unfolding. Both plays share the same clever gimmick, a normal everyday façade eventually reveals some horrible truth. The brisk 70 minute tale is an outstanding production with a pitch perfect performance by Jayne Houdyshell as Beverly the title character at the center of the story and a set by David Korins that becomes on ominous fifth character. But nonetheless this entertaining Receptionist feels incomplete awaiting a second act.
The American premiere of J. T. Rogers’ new play TheOverwhelming grippingly directed by Max Stafford-Clark for The Roundabout Theater Company is a thought provoking tale of an American family, newly arrived in 1994 Rwanda, where a genocidal civil war is about to break out and nothing or anyone is exactly what they seem. The family will find themselves embroiled in grim events beyond their understanding as they struggle to find the truth and ultimately discover what they will do to protect themselves.
Making his Broadway debut Chazz Palminteri plays all 18 characters in A Bronx Tale with impressive panache. His semi autobiographical reflections, although sentimentalized, is quite charming, even disturbing, but what stands out is Mr. Palminteri’s strong feeling for the old neighborhood and the forces that helped shape his character. Viewed from a distance of almost half a century his tale takes on added nostalgia that does not necessarily make for dynamic theater, but is nonetheless most entertaining.
A sex farce about a straight businessman hiding from the mob in a gay bath house must have been risqué to Broadway audiences back in 1975, but despite some funny situations, witty dialogue and much physical humor played at full throttle by the talented cast, the revival of Terrence McNally’s ground breaking play, The Ritz directed by Joe Mantello for the Roundabout, feels decidedly tame and dated. Mantello’s kind hearted send up of a more innocent time, the decade that predated the AIDS epidemic, is pure physical farce, an amusing homage to slapstick, but the dazzling tri-level set by Scott Pask with a series of shimmering red doors manages to upstage most of the action turning the evening into more of an interesting walk down memory lane than a riotous good time.
When the The Color Purple opened on Broadway back in December of 2005 we raved, “Hallelujah! The new musical is a joyous celebration of the human spirit, culled from Alice Walkers 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning novel,” and exclaimed “The impassioned tale is a shimmering mosaic, a triumph in every way. Here is a serious musical graced with intelligence and humor that is destined to become a classic.”
A suspenseful new drama, Maritius, from the playwright Theresa Rebeck launches Manhattan Theatre Club’s 2007-2008 season and if the tantalizing play does not fulfill completely, the evening is nonetheless clever entertainment by way of an accomplished cast. Two postage stamps from Maritius, a picture perfect island in the Indian Ocean, propels the action of five people, who squabble over the ownership rights of a stamp collection that may be worth over 6 million dollars.
The prolific playwright Adam Rapp is at it again, stirring up a heady brew of gritty realism stuffed with the twisted values of the Sligo household. Dysfunctional families and misfits have always been a favorite of his, and with his dark new comedy American Sligo, making its World Premier at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in the West Village, Rapp does not disappoint. Nicely directed by the playwright himself to maximize the play’s jarring effects and served with committed gusto by an excellent cast, the satire is a scathing attack on the moral decay of the American family that is by turns both shocking and hilarious.
Walmartopia is the bargain basement of musicals: everything’s stuffed into it from musical genres spanning the last 60 years to anti-war messages that are just too contemporary. In aisle one you’ll find issues about women and minorities: in aisle 2 you can have your pick of lesbianism or cross-dressing: aisle 3, products from China: a few aisles away fire arms and fascism. Sprinkled all over is “the American Dream”. You get the point.